In one of them, he was in a crowd of bare-chested, loincloth-wearing men and women who danced in front of a new-looking Mayan pyramid. In another, he lay bound to a stone altar as a hawk-nosed priest wearing an elaborate bone, feather, and jade head-dress lifted a stone knife above him. In the next, he stood in the hallway of an earlier version of Skywatch, laughing as three kids raced past him, chasing a half-grown puppy that looked more like a coyote than a dog.

Rabbit hadn’t danced that dance, been that sacrificial victim, or watched those kids chase a coy-dog through Skywatch, but those experiences were suddenly inside him, along with thousands of others that beckoned for him to accept the power he was being offered by a god that had picked him, not one of the others.

The Triad magic. Holy. Fucking. Shit.

Before, it had been a fantasy, the subject of more than a few “wouldn’t it be cool if I got picked so I could kick some major ass” convos late at night. Now, though . . . now it was very real.

Rabbit’s heart hammered off-rhythm as the magic slammed into the second set of mental filters, the ones that blocked his talents of pyro- and telekinesis. Working faster now, he pulled down the blockade. More magic flowed into him; more memories raced past, going too fast for him to glimpse his ancestors’ pasts.

Then the power hit the final layer of shielding: a thick blockade made of repeating geodesic panels, each marked with a bloodred quatrefoil glyph like the one he wore on his inner right forearm. The symbol belonged to the Nightkeepers’ enemies, the Order of Xibalba. His mother’s people. It was the sign of the dark hellmagic.

Of all the blocks, this was the one he relied on the most. When it was in place, the darkness couldn’t reach him; the Xibalbans’ leader, Iago, couldn’t touch him.

But neither could the Triad magic.

Oh, fuck. Now what? Rabbit’s mind raced as bloody tears hazed his vision red.

The last time he’d probed Iago’s mind, a week ago, the Xibalban had still been comatose, his soul deadlocked with that of the powerful demon he’d summoned and then lost control of. Which meant it should be safe to drop the hell-block to let the Triad magic through.

It was a risk, but a calculated one. And Kinich Ahau had chosen him. The swirling memories—and the Triad power—could be his. Excitement sizzled, driving him on.

He could do this. For the Nightkeepers. For himself. The prophecy was clear: If the Nightkeepers didn’t call the Triad, the Banol Kax would have the upper hand next week, when the solstice- eclipse destabilized the barrier enough for the dark lords to punch through. The good guys needed the magic, and he could bring it to them.

Heart hammering, Rabbit whispered the counterspell that made the final blockade fold in on itself and disappear. He braced for the magic to rush into the center of his psyche, for the Triad spell to flood him with souls, spells, and incalculable power.

Instead, the hell-link slammed open and dark magic spewed into him, brown and oily, rattling like a damned striking snake.

Fuck! Rabbit made a grab for the doorway, but an alien force locked onto him, digging sharp claws into his consciousness and paralyzing his thoughts.

He flashed briefly on a fluorescent-lit cinder block room seen through half-open eyes. He recognized the view Iago saw in his comatose daze, recognized the bastard’s semiconscious mental pattern. And in the half second it took Rabbit to make those connections, Iago’s power made a connection of its own: straight to the Triad magic.

No! Rabbit screamed the word, but no sound came out; no warning reached the others. They didn’t have a clue that things had just gone way fucking wrong, didn’t know he needed help. He was on his own, fighting desperately to get free as ropes of twisted darkness twined around the Triad power and began pulling it back through the hell-link into Iago.

Echoes of rage flashed through Rabbit’s consciousness as his ancestors’ ghosts were pulled along with the Triad magic. Panic slashed. Impotence. He had to do something, but he couldn’t get away from Iago, couldn’t overpower him, couldn’t—

Make a new fucking block, idiot. He didn’t know if the order came from an ancestor or from inside himself, but he latched on to it with desperate terror. Summoning every ounce of magic he had left, he cast the spell, pouring himself into the high-tech portal that shimmered into being, open at first, then irising shut around the dark magic, pinching and then severing the greasy tendrils. Adrenaline surged as the Xibalban’s grip faltered. It was working! It was—

New tendrils spewed through the opening, latched onto the doorway, and ripped it from its mental moorings.


The Triad magic poured into Iago and the green-eyed darkness within him. Rabbit saw it, felt it, through their mind-link. And he got it.

Oh, holy shit. Iago was using the Triad magic to gain control over the demon king, Moctezuma.

Fuck. Oh, fuck. Oh, fuckfuckfuck. For a paralyzed, pussy-assed second Rabbit couldn’t think, couldn’t react, couldn’t do anything.

Then, deep inside him, a spark of fire magic kindled. It was his first and strongest talent, the one he’d done the most damage with. Now it took on a mind of its own, growing from an ember to a blaze, then to a conflagration. The flames seared him, tore at him, then curled into an alien shape, something he hadn’t conjured, didn’t control.

Oh, gods. Oh, shit. It was the firebird.

The sun god’s emissary shrieked a shrill battle cry within Rabbit’s mind, trailing flames from its wings as it attacked Iago’s mind-link, tearing at the dark magic with its beak and talons.

As it did so, it summoned the Triad magic. The power leaped out of Iago and funneled back up the hell-link to pour into the firebird, which began to glow and pulse with the recaptured energy.

No! Iago’s rage flared through Rabbit, edged with the luminous green of demon vision. Tentacles of greasy brown magic lashed the god-ghost, only to wither and die when they made contact. The firebird’s body shone brilliantly, going almost pure white as the last of the Triad magic left Iago.

With a trumpeting battle cry, the firebird launched itself out of the hell-link, which collapsed behind it, cutting off the telepathic connection without warning.

Agony slashed through Rabbit’s skull as Iago’s claws tore out of his consciousness, but that pain was welcome. The pain racing from his head and heart, outward, and then in again to concentrate in his chest, wasn’t.

No, he shouted inwardly, reaching for the firebird. Wait. I can—

New pain cracked through his skull, a wordless lash of rejection that his heart translated as, You had your chance, half blood.

Power thundered and the firebird disappeared, taking the Triad magic with it.

And Rabbit was suddenly alone in his head once more.

Gods! His eyes snapped open; his mouth worked with a silent scream as he returned to full consciousness, senses reeling. He was on his knees, clutching his nahwal’s hand, screaming aloud as a cloud of red-gold power erupted from his chest and the firebird took form once again, back-winging away from him, eyes blazing with rage.

“Wait!” Heart hammering, he lunged for the apparition. “I can handle it. I can—” But it was too late. The firebird gave a trumpeting scream, locked on to the man beside him, and dove.

It hit Brandt chest high. And disappeared.

Oh, shit. That was the only thought Brandt could formulate as agony hammered into his chest and red-

gold power poured liquid fire into his veins, bloating his head and heart.

Oh, shit. He’d been nailed by a Triad ricochet.

Oh, shit. It hurt.

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